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Base closure survives Senate test

By By Buddy Bynum/The Meridian Star
Sept. 26, 2001
The specter of military cutbacks remained today after the U.S. Senate on Tuesday narrowly rejected an attempt to stop a new round of base closures.
On a vote of 53 to 47, the Senate killed an amendment sponsored by Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) that would have removed base closure language from a defense authorization bill.
The Senate action came despite strong opposition from U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., to base closure under a base realignment and closure commission known as BRAC.
While no formal list has been submitted, officials believe Mississippi's military installations are possible BRAC targets. At this point, officials said, there is no way to know whether BRAC could affect NAS Meridian, whose mission is to train Navy pilots. NAS is Lauderdale County's single largest employer and a major contributor to the area's economy.
Lott said he has told President Bush and others in the Administration he could only support a round of base closures that "focuses on those areas identified with large excess capacity. This focused round would provide savings but not reduce infrastructure below what might be required by the future force."
Lott, the Senate Republican Leader, said "a new threat has emerged and a new type of war will be fought. I have to ask, what will be the force structure of the future? And, where will we need bases for operating, training, and maintaining this force?
to change our defense infrastructure," he said.
Lott said if the Defense Department feels so strongly about base closures, it should identify bases with excess capacity and submit the list to Congress for a final determination.
His comments came as the Senate debated the defense authorization bill for fiscal year 2002, which carries authority for the Defense Department to carry out a base closure round in 2003. No such provision was included in the legislation when it passed the House.
Buddy Bynum is editor of The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3213, or e-mail him at bbynum@themeridianstar.com.

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